The moment that made this man lose 10st in 18 months - 'It was so embarrassing and I knew it was make or break time'
A dad who lost more than 10st (63kg) in 18 months has opened up about the embarrassing moment that forced him to confront his life-long struggle with weight.
Offaly-based John Bracken (42) said his disappointing finish in a local charity race gave him the motivation he needed to tackle his unhealthy lifestyle, which had him tipping the scales beyond 24st (152kg).
"I was taking part in a charity 5km and I came second last out of everyone taking part – the man who came last was 65-years-old and he had bad arthritis. It was really embarrassing and I thought 'How have I let myself get to this point'.
"That was really the moment for me. My fortieth birthday was coming up and knew it was make or break time."
John, who is from Dundee in Scotland but lives in Clara in Offaly, said his weight was impacting his quality of life and self-confidence as well as his family-time with his two daughters.
"I have two daughters and I struggled to do normal family activities, even the most basic things. I was too self-conscious to go swimming, I couldn’t run without getting out of breath.
"My weight had made me quite introverted; I was always in a bad mood. There’s a huge mental aspect to weight and I definitely struggled with that.
"Finding clothes that fit me was a huge struggle, and I was dying with aches and pains. I was a 39-year-old man and I struggled to even get up from the armchair. Manoeuvring myself out of it was like doing a limbo. Even tying my shoelaces was difficult."
After the disastrous race John decided to join Weight Watchers with his wife Angela, even though the prospect was daunting.
"My wife Angela suggested I come along to a meeting and like many guys do, I had reservations.
"I thought I was going to be the only guy there, and I guess that’s the first obstacle, overcoming that fear.
"When I first weighed in at my meeting in Tullamore I was 24st 12lb (157kg) and I wasn’t surprised. I expected to be even worse if I’m honest."
John, who works as a software build architect, described his old diet as "chaotic" and said he frequently consumed more than 4000 calories a day.
"I would often skip breakfast and by lunchtime I’d be so hungry, craving high energy foods like wedges, big sandwiches. I used to commute to Dublin a lot for work and catching the train home I’d grab a bag of sweets to have on the journey home. Once I got there I’d have a big dinner and I love crisps so they’d be had as well throughout the evening.
"My diet was so chaotic. I was really, really unhealthy, easily consuming over 4,000 calories a day."
Over the course of 18 months, John gradually shed 10st and reignited his love of martial arts by joining a karate club in Tullamore.
"As I began to lose weight, I concentrated on becoming more active. I upped my walking and when I had lost 5st, I pulled my bike out of the garage again.
"In Scotland I used to study martial arts but as I got heavier, I lost my passion for it so I made a commitment to get back into that.
"Now I’m an active member of Tullamore’s Karate Club and I train twice a week,” he said.
John said he finds it amusing that friends and family he hasn’t seen in a while sometimes fail to recognise him until he speaks in his distinctive Scottish accent.
"After I had reached my goal, I flew home to Scotland to visit my gran who was unfortunately in hospital. I walked onto her ward and greeted her and she didn’t recognise me. I had to tell her who I was. Sometimes I meet people I haven’t seen in a while and they don’t know it’s me until I speak. It’s a good feeling but it’s also pretty scary too," he said.
The dad-of-two admitted he finds it more difficult to maintain his weight than losing it in the first place, but encouraged those who are unhappy with their size to just bite the bullet.
"My wife and I are great at keeping each other on track and we’re good motivators for each other. Making a lifestyle change with someone else is great because there is control of what comes into the house. For instance, our shopping list is much different than it was a few years ago.
"If anyone is in a situation like I was I think you should just go for it. There’s nothing to lose except, of course, the weight," he said.